Man City face home truths in Sevilla test
Manchester City manager Manuel Pellegrini has acknowledged that his team must improve their Champions League home form ahead of Wednesday’s encounter with Europa League holders Sevilla.
City are level on points with Sevilla after two games and with last season’s beaten finalists Juventus three points clear, a shootout for second place in Group D is already taking shape.
City lost 2-1 to Juventus in their opening match at the Etihad Stadium and have won only three of their last 12 home games in the competition, but while aware of their travails on home turf, Pellegrini says minds are fixed only on defeating Sevilla.
“I don’t know the exact statistics, but they are the numbers and of course we must improve,” he told Tuesday’s eve-of-match media conference.
“But we are just thinking about one game, not what happened in the past. We play against a difficult team and we hope we can win.
“All the other things are statistics or history that will not help us to win or lose. I cannot talk about that.”
Pellegrini is without injured talisman Sergio Aguero, whose 90th-minute penalty at Borussia Moenchengladbach enabled City to get off the mark in the group with a 2-1 win on their last outing.
David Silva, Fabian Delph and Gael Clichy are also injured, but Pellegrini saw his rejigged team comprehensively dismantle promoted Bournemouth 5-1 in the Premier League last Saturday.
Wilfried Bony, deputising for Aguero up front, scored twice, while Raheem Sterling claimed a hat-trick as City made it 11 goals in two games following their 6-1 thrashing of Newcastle United before the international break.
Pellegrini has also been boosted by the return of Aleksandar Kolarov, who has recovered from a hamstring problem and could come into the team in place of auxiliary left-back Bacary Sagna.
Skipper Vincent Kompany is in line for a comeback after being rested against Bournemouth, while Pellegrini has allayed fears about the fitness of Yaya Toure after he was taken off at half-time.
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Although fit, Toure is not content, as he disclosed in an interview with L’Equipe on Monday in which he said that he was “not happy” due to a perceived lack of recognition from the English media.
But Pellegrini played down the Ivorian’s comments, saying: “It is different to not be happy about the criticism or the recognition, than to not be happy. I think Yaya is happy here.”
While Toure broods, Wednesday’s game is likely to be a happier occasion for City winger Jesus Navas, who played 393 games for Sevilla over a 10-year period prior to alighting in northwest England in 2013.
Sevilla’s struggles in La Liga continued on Saturday as they drew 1-1 at Eibar, which left them 12th in the table with just two wins from eight games.
However, they have shown their ability to rise to the occasion as one of those victories came against European champions Barcelona.
Unai Emery’s squad is also beginning to take shape after a spate of injuries, but Gael Kakuta, Sergio Escudero, Nico Pareja, Daniel Carrico and goalkeeper Beto are all expected to miss the game.
Emery, shortlisted for the FIFA World Coach of the Year award on Tuesday, said that City will not be excessively diminished by the absences of Aguero and Silva.
“We judge the XI City are putting out. We don’t wait for the players that are missing,” he said.
“City are a great squad with great individual players. Whether one plays or one doesn’t play, they have still got a strong squad.
“But we also know we are capable of playing well. We can create problems.”
Influential Argentine midfielder Ever Banega returned from injury as a substitute at Eibar and is expected to start at the Etihad.
Ukrainian international winger Yevhen Konoplyanka could also come into the starting XI after making another strong impact off the bench.